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‘Hefty price tag’ for not complying

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If you need a reason to do the right thing about lone worker safety, and health and safety in general, the fines for companies that find themselves in court look like rising sharply, the Lone Worker Safety 2017 Conference heard.

A speaker at the annual event in London was Lukas Rootman, a partner at the commercial law firm Nabarro. He described new sentencing guidelines that came into force in February 2016, covering culpability, level of harm, and ‘financials’. He reminded the audience of lone worker trainers, health and safety and security people that the previous guidelines applied only to fatal incidents; now they apply to fatal and non-fatal alike. Culpability might mean deliberate; or falling far short in systems in place; while ‘financials’ means that a fine must have an impact on those prosecuted, to bring home the need to comply.

Lukas Rootman, a solicitor whose field is regulatory compliance, went through some recent cases about lone workers. A newsagents chain was fined after violent robberies against its stores. The company has received several improvement notices; but the risks had not been assessed properly, and under health and safety law the firm was fined £150,000. For such a case now, Rootman said, the starting point for a fine would be £540,000, based on the guilty company’s turnover. If a likely fine is £400k more than before,why not convince a company to spend £400,000 on keeping staff safe? he asked, saying that he was offering a ‘sales pitch’ for sales people of lone worker safety products.

Another case was of a security guarding contractor that was fined after a guard turned on a petrol generator to keep warm at night in a cabin; and was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Fine: £20,000. The new starting point for such a case against a micro-company (with a small number of employees) would be £160,000, Rootman said. He summed up: “I think the conclusion is clear; employers’ responsibility remains the same, but there is a bigger price tag for non-compliance. Businesses must step up their efforts to improve compliance or pay the hefty price.”

As that price tag for not complying has increased dramatically, he urged companies to revisit how they control risk, for example for lone workers, and consider if control measures are adequate to control the risk.

Replying to a question from the floor at the Olympia conference centre, pictured, Rootman said that from his experience of working with large companies, they ‘actually do try and get it right'; and the fact that someone has died (in a workplace accident) gets board attention; and the court fine does not have to be much for senior people to take an interest; and senior people did feel outraged and affected, and that they failed because a person did not go home that day. Britain was, Rootman added, one of the safest places to work in, in the world.

Earlier Lukas Rootman went through the law, and how to comply, making the point that no-one had seen a need to tinker with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; whereby you have to do what is reasonable and practicable for the health and safety of your workers. In his experience, he said, companies want to keep their workers safe. You should review risk assessments annually; or when working practices change.

More on lone worker safety and the conference in the May 2017 print issue of Professional Security magazine. Visit http://www.loneworkersafetyexpo.com/.


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